Dominion Energy won’t be adding another tower to the downtown skyline after all. Blame the pandemic and Warren Buffett.
The Richmond-based utility giant confirmed on Friday it has for the foreseeable future decided to scrap its plans for 700 Canal Place, an office building it has had on the drawing board for several years for the site of its former One James River Plaza building.
Planned for 17 stories with 900,000 square feet, 700 Canal Place would have been a slightly smaller twin to Dominion’s 600 Canal Place, which was completed in 2019.
The decision comes nearly a year since the 21-story One James River Plaza came crashing down in a plume of dust via implosion, leaving a massive pit at 701 E. Cary St. that’s since been cleaned up and leveled out while awaiting a decision on 700 Canal Place.
That decision came last week and was driven by two factors, according to the company: the recent sale of its natural gas business to Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, which shrunk Dominion’s downtown headcount, as well as realizations it has had about the staying power of work-from-home flexibility for its employees brought on by the pandemic.
About 300 of Dominion’s downtown employees were sent to Berkshire as part of the $8 billion natural gas deal. Those workers have since relocated to Reynolds Crossing, where Berkshire leased a big block of office space.
Add that to the fact that the company has decided that working from home will be a fixture for some time. About 35 percent of its workforce, including the bulk of its 2,500 downtown employees, are still working from home and won’t come back in larger numbers until at least July.
“With a reduced headcount in our downtown workforce due to the sale of substantially all of our Gas Transmission & Storage businesses and in anticipation of more flexible work schedules for those employees who have proved to work remotely both effectively and productively, we are continuing to update workplace plans and policies for all of Dominion Energy, in anticipation of returning to our workplaces when it is safe to do so,” Carter Reid, president of Dominion Energy Services said in a prepared statement.
Dominion said it has informed the city of its decision not to build the second tower. The company said it will fill the hole at 701 E. Cary St. and is weighing its options for what to put on the site. Those options do not currently include selling the parcel to a developer, the company said. The plan of development for 700 Canal on file with the city is valid for five years.
Richmond-based Hourigan and Chicago-based Clayco — the two companies that built 600 Canal — had initially been retained as the general contractors for 700 Canal. Houston-based architecture firm Kendall/Heaton Associates was the architect of record for the planned tower. Timmons Group was the civil engineer, plans show.
Dominion continues to utilize its other downtown offices, including the 20-story tower at 705 E. Main St. and three buildings at 120 Tredegar St. along the river.
Another piece of its local real estate portfolio that’s in flux is a 12-acre piece of its Innsbrook compound at 5000 Dominion Blvd. The company listed the land for sale last year and as of December had a deal in the works to sell it to a developer for a mix of apartments and townhomes.